"In Accordance With Fair Use ... We Forbid Any Reproduction":

The "This article is copyright protected and Fair Use is not applicable" line seemingly no longer appears in new articles on the North Country Gazette site, but the "In accordance with Fair Use of Copyright: WE FORBID ANY REPRODUCTION in part or in whole of The North Country Gazette" remains on the front page. Why should people trust the accuracy of the articles on the site, if the site's claims about copyright law are inaccurate?

UPDATE: The line, now written as "This article is copyright protected. Fair Use is not applicable.," is back at the bottom of new North County Gazette posts.

Related Posts (on one page):

  1. "In Accordance With Fair Use ... We Forbid Any Reproduction":
  2. This Blog Post Is Copyright Protected and Fair Use Is Not Applicable:
The site's concern with fair use seems to be explained in a June 9th editorial. I'd link to it but the site doesn't seem to support deep linking. You can get to it by clicking on Editorials and scrolling down.
10.25.2006 2:45pm
If my mother makes an inaccurate statement about the law, does that mean I should question her fitness to raise a child? Whether this publication understands copyright law, which may boil down to the question of whether they've engaged a competent lawyer, has nothing to do with whether their journalism skills are up to snuff.
10.25.2006 3:11pm
A Guest:

Why should people trust the accuracy of the articles on the site, if the site's claims about copyright law are inaccurate?

Because they're journalists, not lawyers?
10.25.2006 3:11pm
They are journalists WITH lawyers. That's ridiculous.
10.25.2006 3:19pm
Yeah, I've never really understood the argument that "if you messed up here, all your other positions and statements are probably flawed." Sure, you're within your rights to avoid considering any other arguments or statements from that person, but your logical basis for doing so is pretty weak.

Obviously if there's a pattern of distortion in related matters, the logic behind discrediting future statements makes more sense. But here, where you have a news organization unsure of the extent of its copyright protections, there's no reason to assume they're distorting the news they report.
10.25.2006 3:24pm
Daniel Chapman (mail):
Because with a minimal amount of actual checking, they'd find out they are wrong. Either they've checked and printed a deliberate falsehood or they haven't checked their facts.

You don't think this is relevant?
10.25.2006 3:28pm
If my mother makes an inaccurate statement about the law, does that mean I should question her fitness to raise a child?

Did you embed a possible logical conundrum there, something along the lines of, "What I am saying now is a lie."? (Has your mother made an inaccurate statement about the law, so we should scrutinize you more closely?)
10.25.2006 3:33pm
lucia (mail) (www):
Ok, you've blogged twice now, and copied some text on their web page each time. Question: Have they sent you a Cease and Desist order for copying their text prohibiting copying?
10.25.2006 3:37pm
Well, Daniel, I'm reading the statement again, and I don't see where they've made a factual statement about the law. They simply say "they forbid". Sure, they don't inform the reader that their prohibition has limited legal force (in accordance with their readers' fair use rights), but unlike before, they're no longer making an incorrect statement about what the law says. Misleading, maybe. I'd say aggressive. They do mention fair use as a limiting principle. And it's not their job to advise readers of their fair use rights or exactly how those rights affect what is forbidden.

I still say their stance on copyright law is logically separate from their pursuit and delivery of the news. Perhaps a learned reader may choose a different paper, but the choice seems emotional rather than logical. Put another way, I'd ask whether the New York Times presumably lawful terms of use give conservatives any comfort when reading their substantive articles. I'd guess not.
10.25.2006 3:39pm
Jefe (mail):
There is a self-serving statement on the FRONT PAGE of a publication that is easily verifiable as false. Don't worry about it though because the people that put it there are journalists.
Is that the argument that several are making here?
10.25.2006 3:43pm
Tinhorn (mail):

"In accordance with Fair Use of Copyright: WE FORBID ANY REPRODUCTION in part or in whole of The North Country Gazette" remains on the front page. Why should people trust the accuracy of the articles on the site, if the site's claims about copyright law are inaccurate?

I don't see what claim they are making about copyright law in the remaining quoted passage, much less what inaccurate claim they are making. And, while I think it is unlikely that an express prohibition would change a defeat into a victory for them in a fair use case, I would not conclude that it's chances of making a difference are completely trivial. So, if an express prohibition might have a nonzero (albeit small) chance of tipping the scale, *and* might have an additional deterrent effect, what is wrong -- from a legal perspective -- with including it? (I'd hate to be the lawyer telling my client it would be silly to include it, only to have a judge or jury conclude that the fair use question in a particular case was really close, and if only the site had warned people that no use whatsoever would be considered a fair use . . . .)
10.25.2006 3:54pm
See Michael Crichton on the "Gell-Mann Amnesia Effect":

...the Gell-Mann Amnesia effect is as follows. You open the newspaper to an article on some subject you know well. In Murray's case, physics. In mine, show business. You read the article and see the journalist has absolutely no understanding of either the facts or the issues. Often, the article is so wrong it actually presents the story backward—reversing cause and effect. I call these the "wet streets cause rain" stories. Paper's full of them.

In any case, you read with exasperation or amusement the multiple errors in a story, and then turn the page to national or international affairs, and read as if the rest of the newspaper was somehow more accurate about Palestine than the baloney you just read. You turn the page, and forget what you know.

That is the Gell-Mann Amnesia effect. I'd point out it does not operate in other arenas of life. In ordinary life, if somebody consistently exaggerates or lies to you, you soon discount everything they say. In court, there is the legal doctrine of falsus in uno, falsus in omnibus, which means untruthful in one part, untruthful in all. But when it comes to the media, we believe against evidence that it is probably worth our time to read other parts of the paper. When, in fact, it almost certainly isn't. The only possible explanation for our behavior is amnesia.
10.25.2006 3:54pm
Sorry, the only Michael Crichton book I ever read was terribly written and constructed. It was so full of obvious plot holes and pseudo-science that I scarcely believe he can present a cogent argument in areas outside of fiction. Therefore, I was unable to take seriously his notions as expressed above.

In all seriousness, another possible explanation is our understanding that newspapers employ numerous people who are responsible for different aspects of the paper's reporting. Perhaps the beat writer who got the score wrong in Friday night's game between Spring and Springdale had nothing to do with the Pulitzer-prize winning reporter's expose of city corruption.
10.25.2006 4:09pm
It's a legal disclaimer. You might consult a lawyer about it, but you don't "fact-check" it. And frankly, you can claim whatever rights you like, regardless of whether the law will enforce them. At a minimum, it may have some deterrent effect.
10.25.2006 4:19pm
Ed Swierk (mail):
The official court site is a bit busy, so I posted a copy of the opinion on my site.
10.25.2006 4:20pm
Tom Myers (www):
The June 9th editorial ShelbyC is talking about is, I believe, here.
10.25.2006 4:21pm
Ed Swierk (mail):
Doh! Wrong thread...
10.25.2006 4:21pm
Tennessean (mail):
It is entirely proper to question their judgment, because a journalist can be no better than her credibility and her ability to render accurate descriptions.

If a paper claims to forbid certain behavior, it is with the understanding and the intent that the readers believe the statement actually has some force to it. So even if the paper is making no mistake of law, they are at the least either accidentally or intentionally acting so as to mislead their readers. Hence, their credibility is in doubt. Moreover, once a newspaper policy becomes an issue the paper covers (see their June 9 editorial), the credibility problem is exacerbated.

As to ability, the June 9 editorial is directed at the duplication or unauthorized use of entire articles. If that is the true concern, then there may be no fair-use problem. But the current front-page, blanket prohibition is much broader than the June 9 concern. If the newspaper cannot accurately draft their own policies or report on their own policies (which they presumably have access to unlike most any other news source), how can they be trusted to be able to accurately depict other, more complicated topics?
10.25.2006 5:35pm
NickM (mail) (www):
Huh - Crichton writes fiction for movie treatments (for the most part - I have a nonfiction book he wrote many years ago). So what that there's pseudoscience in it. I didn't expect Jurassic Park to be a how-to manual for dinosaur breeding and care.

The website includes a "resrevation of rights" that wilfully attempts to mislead the readers. It's essentially a one-person operation (the voices in her head don't count separately). Why would you not believe that the lack of concern for accuracy and fair dealing carries over into everything else on the site?

10.25.2006 7:47pm
david giacalone (www):
Whether a publication is reporting from a particular stated perspective or purports to be objective (and especially when it and claims to be on the side of legal reform and against government abuse), readers need to be able to trust its analysis and good faith. A clearcut, self-serving misinterpretation of a law, which the publication has written about often, might indeed make us wonder whether we can trust its analytical ability, and also makes us reasonably wonder whether we are being given selected or skewed facts in the news and opinions sections, in order to make the publication's arguments on various issues. Like I often told my teenage clients (and a few adolescents that lived with me), "Once you have lost someone's trust in one area, it is hard for them to trust you in others. And hard to win it back."
10.25.2006 8:55pm
Nick, noting that you give Chrichton a pass, while reading a one-person online "gazette" the riot act regarding it's potentially erroneous copyright policy, I'd say the following:

1) My Crichton stab was a self-contained joke aimed at that particular poster, get it? My second paragraph about multi-person news organizations was meant to be more generally applicable to the thread.

2) To the extent that a single blogger/newsperson is responsible for the content of an entire site, yeah, I'd own that a serious, continuing disregard for factual accuracy would color my opinions of future stories.

3) In this case, I actually think the disclaimer responded to Volokh's annoying, law-giver intrusion in a pretty clever way. It removed the blatant inaccuracy, but still puffed up the prohibition. Almost every terms of service notice I've ever seen exaggerates its powers in this way. By the way, is it really professor Volokh's intention to ride around the internet crusading against single-person "gazettes" and browbeating them into making corrections to their dumb copyright policies? Hilarious.

4) After reading her Editorial regarding fair use (linked above) it's quite clear that this lady cares a great deal for accuracy and fair dealing. I mean, she's working hard to create a product and doesn't want other people profiting from her work without her permission. Her grasp on copyright law may be a bit fuzzy, but her heart appears to be in the right place. So, to the extent that I'd ever read a site that looks this flaky to begin with, no, their copyright policy isn't going to chase me away. I bet much of her work is pretty spot-on, considering the expectations she's setting. I wouldn't expect a NYT, WSJ quality output from this site, just by looking at it. Hell, I found a couple of typos in just a few second's perusal. But I doubt seriously that she's embarked on a single-minded campaign of disinformation and distortion aimed at her unwary readers. If you want to assume that, go ahead. But that assumption needn't be dictated.

Finally, this is what we're upset about? Seriously slow news day.
10.25.2006 8:59pm
Roger Schlafly (www):
Why is this so much worse than what others say? All of my music CDs say "Unauthorized copying is prohibited" or "Unauthorized duplication is a violation of applicable laws" or something similar. These statements appear to be designed to convince customers that they have no Fair Use rights.
10.25.2006 11:08pm
david giacalone (www):
Roger, you have a point, but that misleading phrasing (which Maxam also utilizes) does not make her additional explicit denial of Fair Use acceptable. Of course, those who know about Fair Use probably know that the Copyright Law "authorizes" their copying.

More important, NCG even applies the blanket denial of Fair Use rights on articles that are in the public domain and are not attributed (like this court press release), or that she has lifted wholesale from other newspapers without attribution, e.g. this article from the Westchester News, which you can find on NCG here.
10.26.2006 2:44pm
user1234 (mail):
Mr. Giacalone:
I believe you are on a slippery slope. The article to which you accuse NCG of stealing was a news release issued to all news media. Stop making wild, unfounded false accusations. You aren't exempt from libel. It appears that you people are on some kind of witch hunt. Find a new hobby.
10.26.2006 8:02pm
david giacalone (www):
User1234: Yes, I just learned this morning that my assertion about the Westchester News was incorrect. I immediately placed a Correction at my weblog shlep. It states:

Update &Correction (Oct. 27, 2006): I have learned this morning that, a day after I was accused of defamation by the Editor of North Country Gazette, I made an erroneous statement about NCG in a Comment to a prior post: After comparing the text of the two articles, I mistakenly said that NCG had taken another newspaper's story without attribution. Here is the Correction notice that I have placed in the Comments to that post:

CORRECTION (Oct. 27, 2006): Yesterday evening, I erroneously stated in this Comment that NCG had copied from this article in the Westchester News, when it wrote this story -- showing that at least five sentences from the NCG article were identical to the sentences in the article. It has been brought to my attention that the source of the NCG article was this release from the Westchester County District Attorney. I apologize for my error. Clearly, NCG did not take the information from If NCG had attributed its story and facts to the Westchester DA's press release, my mistake would not have occurred. My main point remains, however, that NCG was claiming exclusive rights to use materials that the public has every right to reproduce, when it placed the statement "This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed by anyone without the express written permission of the publisher. This article is copyright protected and Fair Use is not applicable" at the end of the article.

I have never had an "axe to grind" with NCG. In Oct. 30, 2005 and December 8, 2005, I had pointed to NCG articles as new sources at my other legal weblog and, on September 26, 2006, had discussed one of its editorials in a posting at this weblog. When I approached the Editor of NCG last week, it was with one simple purpose: to ask that she remove the incorrect clause "Fair Use is not applicable" from NCG articles and commentary. My purpose when I wrote about the topic at this weblog was to get the clause changed and to help the public better understand the Fair Use concept. That is why I wrote to Ms. Maxam thanking her, as soon as I learned that the clause was removed in the Oct. 24, 2006 articles at her site (and why I was disappointed when she reverted back to useing it the next day. I apologize to her for the one erroneous claim that I made, which is discussed above. I apologize to shlep's readers and Team for allowing the story to take up so much of this weblog's resources this week and for allowing the situation to get muddied by making that one incorrect assertion. Having said that, I hope the sources supplied below on defamation law will be helpful.
10.27.2006 12:46pm
Random Person:
One could argue that "In accordance with Fair Use of Copyright: WE FORBID ANY REPRODUCTION in part or in whole of The North Country Gazette" means that:

1) they forbid the use of any letter in the alphabet, number, or punctuation because they've used them all in their various articles.

2) they forbid the use of any word that they've ever used in their articles.

because you were using a part of their article to communicate.

10.28.2006 7:13pm